5 Questions to Help You Choose a Diet That Works for You

women preparing healthy food for diet plan
Westend61 / Getty Images
Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

What is the best diet? There is no single diet plan that works for everyone. The best diet for you is the one that you stick to for the long term. It's the healthy eating plan that fits your lifestyle and is easy for you to follow.

So how do you sort through the marketing claims for hundreds of diets to find a weight loss plan that works? Start by asking yourself these six critical questions. The answers will reveal the diet plan that is most likely to work for you.

Do I Need a Diet?

The first step is to determine if you need a weight-loss program at all. What are your motives and goals? If, for example, you have recently had a baby and are concerned about retaining pregnancy weight, remember that your body needs calories to heal and to produce breast milk.

And if you want to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, you could set a goal to do just that. Weight loss need not factor into the plan to make healthy changes to your eating habits.

What Is My Budget?

Before you begin shopping for the best weight loss plan, decide if you have money to invest and how much you want to spend.

Then, based on that information, evaluate the diet plans that look most interesting to you and decide if they fit your budget. Be sure to evaluate all costs that might be involved. This includes the cost of food, support services, reference materials, and exercise classes. Also, factor in the amount of time you'll need to be on the plan to lose your goal weight.

Keep in mind that the cost of a diet program is not necessarily a predictor of the plan's success. Just because you pay to lose weight doesn't mean that the weight will necessarily disappear.

However, there is some evidence that suggests commercial weight loss plans are more successful than trying to lose weight on your own. A 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who followed a structured commercial plan lost slightly more weight than those who followed a self-help plan.

But if you don't have money to spend on a commercial diet, don't worry. There are some great online weight loss programs that are cheap or even free. These apps, online workouts, and virtual coaching services are perfect if you are a do-it-yourself type who prefers to be independent. They give you the tools you need to create your own weight loss program at home.

Do I Have Health Issues?

Your healthcare provider can help you determine which health issues should be considered when choosing the best diet.

People with diabetes, for example, have specific nutritional needs that may limit the types of diets they can choose. People with high blood pressure are great candidates for the DASH program, which helps limit salt consumption. Patients who are diagnosed with arthritis may be more comfortable with plans that do not involve as much weight-bearing exercise.​

Does My Schedule Allow for Food Preparation?

One of the reasons that many diets fail is that busy schedules get in the way of good eating habits. It's hard to pass by a fast-food restaurant after working a 10-hour day. But if you know that a healthy meal is waiting at home, making a good choice might be easier.

Think about how much time you have for grocery shopping and food preparation. Be realistic. If your life simply does not allow enough time to prepare healthy meals, then a program that includes prepared food might be more suitable for you. Review diet delivery meal programs to learn if one fits into your budget and lifestyle.

Do I Have Social Support?

An important part of every successful weight-loss program is social support. A supportive spouse, a neighbor who's on the same plan, or a community group can help provide the emotional support you need through your journey. 

Some gyms, neighborhood community centers, senior citizen groups, and hospitals offer weight loss support services. Or look for a program at your religious center. A 2005 study by the University of Illinois, Department of Medicine, found that adding a religious component to the weight loss programs of some women improved their results.

If the people around you aren't available or supportive, find a commercial plan that includes a social component. Programs such as WW (Weight Watchers) provide support services at locations around the country. Weigh-ins, recipe exchanges, and group meetings provide excellent opportunities to connect with others who are trying to lose weight.

What Have I Tried in the Past, and Why Did It Fail?

Evaluate your weight loss history and make a list of the reasons that past efforts have been unsuccessful. Then, rethink your strategy by making realistic choices you can stick to for the long term.

For instance, if the food choices on other plans you've tried were too restrictive, choose a weight-loss plan that teaches good portion control tips rather than specific food restrictions. Seattle's Sutton, for example, allows you to eat many different foods but in smaller portions. The Atkins Diet, on the other hand, restricts consumption of most carbohydrates.

If other weight loss plans left you feeling hungry all the time, then the best plan might be one that allows for greater food intake—but also emphasizes low-calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and dairy products. The Volumetrics Diet and the Five Factor Diet both emphasize full, low-calorie meals. The Jenny Craig plan also uses different strategies to help you eat more food at each meal.

To stay motivated, choose a plan that includes accountability to a friend, a support group, or a weight loss professional. This may help you to learn motivational skills that will keep your plan on track.

A Word From Verywell

The right weight-loss plan is the one that keeps you healthy, happy, and on track to reach whatever goal you're aiming to achieve. In the process of choosing the best plan for you, try to ignore any claims and advertisements or celebrity endorsements. Instead, focus on your own physical, emotional, and lifestyle considerations to find a plan that helps you reach your weight loss goal.

Was this page helpful?
13 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. When breastfeeding, how many calories should moms and babies consume? Updated January 31, 2017.

  2. Koliaki C, Spinos T, Spinou Μ, Brinia Μ-E, Mitsopoulou D, Katsilambros N. Defining the optimal dietary approach for safe, effective and sustainable weight loss in overweight and obese adultsHealthcare (Basel). 2018;6(3). doi:10.3390/healthcare6030073

  3. Heshka S, Anderson JW, Atkinson RL, et al. Weight loss with self-help compared with a structured commercial program: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2003;289(14):1792-8. doi:10.1001/jama.289.14.1792

  4. Alencar MK, Johnson K, Mullur R, Gray V, Gutierrez E, Korosteleva O. The efficacy of a telemedicine-based weight loss program with video conference health coaching supportJ Telemed Telecare. 2019;25(3):151-157. doi:10.1177/1357633X17745471

  5. Sami W, Ansari T, Butt NS, Hamid MRA. Effect of diet on type 2 diabetes mellitus: A reviewInt J Health Sci (Qassim). 2017;11(2):65-71.

  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. DASH Eating Plan.

  7. Pelletier JE, Laska MN. Balancing healthy meals and busy lives: associations between work, school, and family responsibilities and perceived time constraints among young adultsJ Nutr Educ Behav. 2012;44(6):481-489. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2012.04.001

  8. Fitzgibbon ML, Stolley MR, Ganschow P, et al. Results of a faith-based weight loss intervention for black women. J Natl Med Assoc. 2005;97(10):1393-402.

  9. Gudzune KA, Doshi RS, Mehta AK, et al. Efficacy of commercial weight-loss programs: an updated systematic reviewAnn Intern Med. 2015;162(7):501-512. doi:10.7326/M14-2238

  10. Seattle Sutton’s Health Eating. Top 10 Nutrition Questions About Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating.

  11. Churuangsuk C, Griffiths D, Lean MEJ, Combet E. Impacts of carbohydrate-restricted diets on micronutrient intakes and status: A systematic reviewObes Rev. 2019;20(8):1132-1147. doi:10.1111/obr.12857

  12. Buckland NJ, Camidge D, Croden F, et al. A low energy-dense diet in the context of a weight-management program affects appetite control in overweight and obese womenJ Nutr. 2018;148(5):798-806. doi:10.1093/jn/nxy041

  13. Lanoye A, Grenga A, Leahey TM, LaRose JG. Motivation for weight loss and association with outcomes in a lifestyle intervention: comparing emerging adults to middle aged adultsObes Sci Pract. 2019;5(1):15-20. doi:10.1002/osp4.313